NHTSA Issue ANPRM Regarding Advanced Drunk and Impaired Driving Prevention Technology
The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the January 5, 2024 Federal Register (F.R. Vol. 89 No. 4; 49 CFR PART 571 Docket No. NHTSA-2022-0079). This ANPRM initiates rulemaking to gather information for developing performance requirements and to require new vehicles be equipped with advanced drunk/impaired driving prevention technology by a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS).
This ANPRM presents various NHTSA activities related to preventing drunk and impaired driving and discusses the current state of advanced impaired driving technology. The NHTSA also requests responses to many questions necessary to develop a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding advanced drunk/impaired driving technology.
Since the 1970s the NHTSA has been actively involved in addressing alcohol-impaired driving which is a major cause of crashes and fatalities. Private and public researchers have also made significant progress on technologies that are capable of measuring and quantifying driver state and performance. Harnessing these technologies for drunk and impaired driving detection and prevention remains a significant challenge. The NHTSA's information gathering and research efforts have found that several technologies show promise for detecting various states of impairment, which for the purposes of this document are alcohol, drowsiness, and distraction. Challenges including distinguishing between different impairment states, avoiding false positives, and determining appropriate prevention countermeasures remain. Drugged driving is not being considered in this ANPRM due to technology and testing immaturity.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law or BIL) directs the NHTSA to issue a Final Rule (FR) establishing an FMVSS that requires new passenger vehicles to have 'advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology' by 2024, but only if it meets the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. (Safety Act). This ANPRM presents:
- Summary of NHTSA's knowledge of alcohol's impact on driver performance
- Seeks comment on a variety of issues related to the state of development of driver impairment detection technologies
- Sets forth the research and technological advancements necessary to develop a FMVSS for driver impairment
- Presents three regulatory options for how the agency might mitigate driver impairment:
- Blood alcohol content detection
- Impairment-detection (driver monitoring)
- Combination of the two.
Based on the language in BIL, the NHTSA believes that Congress did not intend to limit NHTSA's efforts to alcohol impairment. Therefore, this ANPRM also covers two additional impairment states: drowsy driving and distracted driving. These states were chosen due to the size of the safety problem (in particular that of distracted driving) and that certain sensor technologies that have the potential to detect or assist in detecting alcohol impairment and are or can be incorporated into driver monitoring systems (DMS) that may also detect drowsy and distracted driving. The agency is interested in learning more from commenters about what technologies and associated metrics might identify multiple types of impaired drivers. It is also important to be clear here that driving while impaired with drugs other than alcohol (drugged driving) is not within the scope of this ANPRM even though drug impairment is also a significant problem.
Section 24220 of BIL, Advanced Impaired Driving Technology directs the NHTSA to issue a FR prescribing an FMVSS 'that requires passenger motor vehicles manufactured after the effective date of that standard to be equipped with advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.' The NHTSA is required to issue such a rule only if it would meet the criteria in Section 30111 of the Safety Act, which includes, among other things, that an FMVSS be objective, practicable, and meet the need for motor vehicle safety. In analyzing these criteria, NHTSA must balance benefits and costs and consider safety as the preeminent factor in its considerations.
The NHTSA also sought input from the public on impaired driving technologies in a November 12, 2020 Request for Information. It requested details about technologies that can detect degrees of driver impairment through a range of approaches including: monitoring driver action, activity, behavior, or responses; monitoring driver impairment; monitoring a driver's physical characteristics, and technologies or sensors that aim to achieve direct measurement of a driver's physiological indicators that are already linked to forms of impaired driving. The NHTSA received 12 responses which they included in the ANPRM as a high-level summary.
Specific areas where the NHTSA requests responses for the ANPRM proposals include the following topics:
- Questions on technologies that passively monitor the performance of a driver to accurately detect whether that driver may be impaired - feedback on the two technology scan findings, could SAE Level 2 driving automation systems mask drunk driving, limitations of vehicle sensor-based impairment detection systems, input on how a test procedure for driver impairment detection systems could be developed and executed in a FMVSS, performance requirement should the NHTSA consider to mitigate defeat strategies, metrics and thresholds or combination thereof, impairment detection system to determine what kind of impairment a driver has, are there characteristics that would separate sober impairments from alcohol-induced impairments, certain conditions that might result in false positives in certain situations or with certain populations, precision and accuracy required for driver monitoring technology, under what conditions should a vehicle allow a driver to turn off driver impairment monitoring if at all, other innovative technologies such as impaired-voice recognition that could be used to detect driver impairment at start-up, level of sensitivity and specificity is necessary to ensure the DMS technology does not unduly burden unimpaired drivers or prevent unimpaired drivers from driving, how can developers of DMS technology ensure that people with disabilities are not disproportionately impacted, how repeatable and reliable must these systems be, the physical destruction or misuse concerns, how can NHTSA best ensure these systems meet what can be done to mitigate physical destruction or misuse concerns, how can the NHTSA, in the context of an FMVSS, best ensure these systems meet the needs of vehicle users of all genders, races and ethnicities, and those with disabilities.
- Questions on technologies aimed at passively and accurately detecting whether the BAC of a driver of a motor vehicle is equal to or greater than .08g/dL - the NHTSA seeks any new information on technologies that can passively and accurately detect whether the BAC of a motor vehicle driver is equal to or greater than .08g/dL, should regulatory options use BAC/BrAC in isolation to determine whether drivers are above the legal limit, are commenters concerned about using the legal limit (.08g/dL) when there are indications that some individuals exhibit intoxication that would impact driving at lower or higher levels, is a BrAC detection that correlates to a BAC of .08g/dL or above sufficiently accurate, would a standard that allows or requires systems that approximate BAC using BrAC (at any concentration) meet the Safety Act's requirement that standards be objective, how a .08g/dL BAC detection test procedure could be developed and executed in a FMVSS, when during a vehicle's start-up sequence an impairment detection measurement should occur, should BAC/BrAC measurements required on an ongoing basis once driving has commenced, operational difficulties in using touch-based sensing (e.g., consumer acceptance in colder climates when gloves may interfere) or in using breath-based sensing (e.g., mouthwash, vaping, alcohol-drenched clothing, or other false positive indicators), what can be done to mitigate physical destruction and passively monitor misuse, cybersecurity threats related to impairment detection systems.
- Questions on technologies aimed at a combination of driver impairment and BAC detection - to both passively and accurately detect .08g/dL BAC and passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired, are there interim strategies that the NHTSA should pursue if an alcohol impairment detection system utilizes both BAC detection and DMS components, which DMS metrics best complement a BAC system to ensure accuracy, precision, and reliability, possible benefit of a hybrid approach is that a camera system could help prevent intentional defeat of BAC/BrAC sensors, could the camera provide additional benefits against defeating the system, the NHTSA is considering a phased approach which could have a first phase that aims to address alcohol-impaired drivers with a BAC of .15g/dL or higher where an alcohol sensor could have better accuracy, in combination with a camera-based DMS and/or other vehicle technologies, By improving accuracy, it may gain more consumer acceptance by lowering the false positive rate and would also target the drivers with the highest levels of impairment, an option could also be a system with primary and secondary indicators within a driver impairment algorithm, a system could incorporate a zero or low (.02g/dL) tolerance BAC detection technology to initially sense whether alcohol is present vehicle which could serve to 'wake up' a driver impairment algorithm. Since this could be hand sanitizer or alcohol on a person's clothing, a second confirmation of driver impairment from a driver monitoring system would be needed. Given this approach, would such a system allow a vehicle to better distinguish between alcohol impairment and other forms of impairment, the NHTSA notes that it has not identified any passive, production-ready, alcohol-impaired driver detection technology capable of accurate detection at .02g/dL.
- Questions on proposed vehicle interventions once driver impairment or BAC Is detected - how would an alcohol-impaired person react to their vehicle not starting, how can/should this be considered, the pros/cons of an ignition interlock as opposed to a transmission interlock prevention method for internal combustion engine vehicles, comment on any adverse consequences of an impaired driver being unable to drive his/her vehicle, should there be an override feature for emergencies. should the maximum speed of the vehicle be limited during override, how could an override feature be preserved for extreme situations and not used routinely when alcohol-impaired, if a system detects alcohol impairment prior to the start of a trip and an interlock is activated, should retest(s) be allowed, at what elapsed time interval(s), the NHTSA especially seeks comment on test/data analysis methods for determining an optimal retest interval strategy, should data be recorded on the vehicle if retesting is permitted.
- Questions on vehicle warnings once impairment Is detected - the NHTSA is aware of many vehicle manufacturers using visual/auditory warnings and encouraging drivers to take a break from the driving task, also visual/auditory/haptic warnings to identify distracted driving or hands off the steering wheel while Level 2 driving automation systems are engaged, support for the effectiveness of these warnings, the NHTSA's research suggested that indicators of alcohol impairment are often also potential indicators of other conditions, research and information on what warning strategy would effectively encourage both drivers that are alcohol-impaired and drivers that have a different impairment to improve their performance, research to support that a warning would only be effective for a distracted driver or a drowsy driver, but may aggravate an alcohol-impaired driver, other adverse consequences from using warnings to address multiple types of impairment, how manufacturers balance multiple alerts in response to different impairment detections, the many forms of impairment, if systems are developed that can distinguish effectively between alcohol impairment and other forms, is it practicable to employ a variety of different responses, will multiple warnings or other interventions for different forms of impairment confuse drunk drivers and lessen effectiveness for responses to drunk driving, how multiple warnings, may impact drivers with an auditory or sensory processing disability, some drivers, types of warning escalation strategies (timing, perceived urgency, and frequency) are used in industry and are they consistent among manufacturers.
- Questions on vehicle Interventions once detected (on-road) - vehicle interventions in use today for SAE Level 2 driving automation systems when the system detects the driver is incapacitated, what prevents their use in being coupled with driver impairment or BAC detection technology, what is the feasibility of using these interventions without engaging Level 2 driving automation, stopping in the middle of the road could introduce new motor vehicle safety problems including potential collisions with stopped vehicles and impaired drivers walking in the roadway, strategies can be used to prevent these risks, minimum sensor and hardware technology that would be needed to pull over to a slower lane or a shoulder and the cost.
- Questions on other approaches to reduce impaired driving - As vehicle technologies continue what steps or approaches should the NHTSA including potential partnerships with States or other entities, best practices States have found, sharing information about drunk driving conviction.
- Questions about privacy and security considerations - personal privacy considerations are critical to the design of any system that monitors driver behavior or condition, considerations are also one component of consumer acceptance, privacy considerations related to use and potential storage of data by alcohol and impairment detection systems, how best to preserve driver and passenger personal privacy, any additional security vulnerabilities that these systems would present, suggestions regarding how the agency should go about educating the public about security and privacy aspects of advanced impairment and drunk driving detection.
- Question about consumer acceptance - legitimate consumer acceptance issues related and suggestions for how the agency might be able to craft future proposed performance requirements.
- General Questions for the Public - any reliability or durability considerations for alcohol impairment detection technology that may impact functionality over its useful life, any information regarding the final installed costs including maintenance costs, propose a standardized telltale indicator (or set of telltales) indicating that impairment has been detected (and/or that vehicle systems have been limited in response, standardized industry telltales or indicators already developed for this sort of system that the NHTSA should consider, the NHTSA broadly seeks comment on how to best ensure that manufacturers have the flexibility to develop more effective impairment detection technology while preserving a minimum level of accuracy and reliability, should NHTSA consider establishing a requirement that allows a vehicle's BAC detection threshold to be adjusted downward based on the BAC thresholds of local jurisdictions or fleet owners, behavioral safety campaigns haves plateaued so should the NHTSA devote more of its behavioral safety resources towards those programs and efforts that address underlying contributors to alcohol use disorder including drunk driving, mental health conditions effective behavioral safety campaigns or tactics the NHTSA is not using.
Comments for this advanced proposal should be submitted not later than March 5, 2024.